Spices can spur scary dreams

By Shayna Brouker • Published: May 29th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Think of the weirdest, scariest dream you’ve ever had. Maybe a giant purple bunny was chasing you through your childhood elementary school, or you were drowning in a bowl of soup. Can you recall if you ate something spicy for dinner? There may be some truth to the old wives tale that caliente food can spur scary dreams. A study from the University of Montreal found that eating spicy food close to bedtime can raise your metabolism and influence dreams.

Increased metabolism and body temperature can lead to more brain activity, which in turn creates more action during rapid eye movement sleep, or REM. REM occurs about every ninety minutes during the sleep cycle and is prime time for nightmares. The mysterious world of sleep is still relatively murky to scientists, but we do know that those who suffer from frequent nightmares also have problems with their frontal lobe. It fails to control the amygdala, which regulates memory and emotions, resulting in disturbing and intense dreams.

So for a peaceful night of sleep, spurn spicy foods before bedtime and instead reach for snacks rich in tryptophan, like turkey, nuts, seeds, bananas, honey and eggs. If you’re really craving carbs, go for it — carbs and dairy complement each other to enhance tryptophan levels in the blood. Indulge in a milky bowl of cereal, yogurt and granola or cheese and crackers. Just keep snacks and meals on the small side so you don’t overextend your digestive system, which can also take a toll on your z’s. Protein, too, takes a long time to digest, so stick to a smaller-sized steak for dinner.

And of course, a nightcap sounds like the perfect way to drift off to sleep, but it can actually cause headaches and nightmares and disrupt sleep. Balance your wine with water, or better yet, stop drinking four to six hours before bedtime. You’ll be dreaming sweetly in no time.